Human Target “Pilot” (part 2 of 5)
Cue shots of model wing flaps extending, and model jet engines rotating. All the villagers step back and watch the Batwing take off, and among the villagers is the real priest in the wheelchair that Chance was impersonating. And now, the plane ascends in a weak matte shot.
An instant later, the ship is flying through the clouds, and there’s really nothing quite like 1992 special effects done on a shoestring TV budget. Now that Chance can presumably think, we get a caption outlining the case he’s decided to take on next.
And here’s “Palmer, Jay” himself, standing out in an open field, wearing a work shirt and khakis. He’s also leaning against a stylish Chrysler minivan with wood paneling. Jay Palmer is played by Scott Paulin, a character actor who’s had plenty of TV and movie roles, though he’s probably most notable for looking like he could be Tim Roth’s older brother.
He’s not really famous for anything in particular, though perhaps at the time Scott was recognizable for a recurring role on NBC’s I’ll Fly Away. He might have also been recognizable for playing the Red Skull in Albert Pyun’s direct-to-video Captain America, except nobody actually saw that.
Palmer looks up, and sees a superimposed shadow pass overhead. The Batwing lands, and now Palmer is climbing up the spiral staircase to meet with Chance. He asks how Chance could afford a plane like this, and Chance’s explanation is suitably vague, and it’s something about how he once helped out someone “in a very high place”. Who was also very high at the time, I would imagine.
Palmer wants to hire Chance because he thinks someone is trying to kill him. He says his construction business has been “too successful” lately, and his shady competitors aren’t happy about it. He says someone set fire to his office, and the other day, a truck tried to run him down.
Naturally, the police are useless in this situation, so he contacted Chance instead. In fact, the police even gave him Chance’s card. Though you do have to wonder why Palmer didn’t call on the A-Team instead. They could have modified his Chrysler minivan into a bulletproof tank. Problem solved.
Chance asks if he has the stuff he was supposed to bring. Palmer opens up his briefcase, which has lots of family photos. We learn Palmer has a wife and kids, though I think that much was obvious from the minivan.
Chance then lays out the terms, which is that he charges 10% of a year’s salary. “That goes whether you’re a busboy or the King of England!” Okay, King of England, I can see, but is there really anyone out there trying their hardest to assassinate a busboy? Oh, Chance, you and your hyperbole.
Chance says he’ll be impersonating Palmer, while Palmer is kept in “protective custody” aboard the Batwing. He says no one can know about this. “Not even your wife.” If you’re thinking this setup could get really awkward, you’re correct, and also, have you considered a career as a TV writer?
Chance then heads into a control room, where the Token Chick is doing a “background check” on Palmer. Wait, she’s only just now doing this?
Meanwhile, the Disguise Guy is on his computer, calling up some sort of Hollywood GUI to compare Chance’s face to Palmer’s face. This program makes weird fart-like noises as various bits of each guys’ face are overlaid. We learn that in the eyes, the men match 65%, and in the mouth area, they match 74%. But it seems the similarities are strong enough to where Disguise Guy “can make it work”. And I’d really love to see what would happen if they ran Palmer through this machine with Tim Roth. The whole thing might just explode.
Pilot Guy is here for no apparent reason. He notes that this “Palmer dude” is basically “Mr. Suburbia”, and wonders why they couldn’t take a job on the French Riviera instead. And by about 20 minutes into the episode, he won’t be the only one wondering that.
Token Chick is not really sold on taking Palmer’s case, either. She even mentions they just got a “communiqué from the ambassador to China”. Disguise Guy talks about how much more awesome it would be to go to China, and ride on “the Orient Express… I’m not talkin’ trains, either!” How very special for you.
But Chance has already decided to take the case. Token Chick says they haven’t finished the background check yet, but Chance looks at the photo of Palmer and his family and says, “Palmer’s okay.” And yes, this will come back and bite Chance on the ass later in the episode. Thanks for noticing the foreshadowing. And I really meant it when I said you should consider a career in writing TV pilots.
And now, we get to witness the process of the Human Target assuming the identity of his latest client. We’re still aboard the Batwing, and Palmer has a device around his throat. Disguise Guy has him talk while a 3D wave form undulates on a computer screen, supposedly analyzing his voice. Then Chance interviews Palmer about his life, asking him about when he graduated from college, and about his first date with his wife, and none of it is interesting in the slightest.
Now Palmer is standing in a big body scanner, and talking about his home life and his kids, and it’s completely boring. Chance has a set of personality questions for Palmer, and the first one is what Palmer would do if he discovered that a cab driver was taking a “roundabout route to overcharge you”. Oh, I get it, you answer all the questions and it tells you which Lost character you are, right?
We never find out the answer to that scintillating question, and instead cut to Palmer getting scanned in a different machine and answering even more boring questions. Chance asks about his musical tastes, and Palmer says he’s “still partial to rock and roll.” Wow! Palmer’s into rock? This changes everything!
Then Chance tells him to have a look at the completed Palmer mask, which is revealed in a special effect where they shove a plaster cast of Scott Paulin’s face through a sheet of flesh-colored rubber.
And now Chance is in some other part of the Batwing (just how big is this airplane, anyway?), trying to imitate Palmer’s voice. Disguise Guy repeatedly and nonsensically tells him to “pitch it lower.” Token Chick enters with Palmer’s clothes on hangers, joking that she had to “let out the waist a little bit” for Chance. Damn. It ain’t easy being a former teen idol.
And now, in yet another part of the plane, Palmer is sitting and watching a Godzilla movie on TV with Pilot Guy, who eats popcorn and starts to go into an incredibly non-hilarious routine about how “white people” in movies always chase the monsters, and “why don’t y’all just get the hell out the way?” Jokes this bad are the reason Dave Chappelle hid out in Africa for six months. And the lamest part of this bit is how the actor slips up and refers to Godzilla as “a gorilla” before correcting himself. I bet Clarence Clemons knows who Godzilla is.
And Palmer is currently wearing a sweatshirt with the Human Target logo, and Pilot Guy says the logo was his idea. He says that while Chance is on his mission, he’ll have to keep Palmer aboard this plane for his own safety. And he seems to be implying that the plane will just be flying around aimlessly all day while Palmer is aboard. Air traffic control is gonna love that.
Pilot Guy says Palmer won’t get bored, because of the plane’s “worldwide TV reception… books… movie library!” He says they even have a “driving range in the back”, which doesn’t surprise me at all. Maybe that’s where Tiger was hiding out for three months. Pilot Guy says he can even put the plane on autopilot, and “grill up some steaks” for everybody.
Palmer wonders how he got this combination pilot/cook/cruise director job, and Pilot Guy reveals he has a ‘Nam past, which was a common (and lazy) backstory for TV action heroes back in the ‘80s and ‘90s. He says he was “flying choppers in Da Nang in ‘71” when he met Chance. Palmer asks if Chance was a “Green Beret or something?”
Pilot Guy says, “Or something.” Ooh, Chance is totally a mysterious man of mystery. At first I wondered if Rick Springfield is even old enough to play someone who served in Vietnam, but it turns out he was 19 years old in 1968. And as everyone knows, the average age of a soldier in Vietnam was n-n-n-n-nineteen.
Token Chick enters, and says, “Mr. Palmer? Meet Mr. Palmer.” And here’s Chance disguised as Palmer, but it’s really just the same actor overdubbed with Rick Springfield’s voice. And then, through the magic of split screen, the actor is standing in the same shot as himself. Chance says he’ll need Palmer’s wedding ring, and via some clever editing, he hands the ring over to himself.
So already I’m noticing a big inconsistency here, because the priest in the opening scene was clearly Rick Springfield in old age makeup, but Chance disguised as Palmer is just Palmer. I assume putting Rick in prosthetics to make him look like Scott Paulin would have just been plain silly, and obviously way beyond this show’s budget. So instead, whenever Chance is impersonating somebody on this show, they just have that actor step into playing Chance for the episode.
Obviously, this is the fatal flaw in the show’s premise. The person with the most screen time in this pilot is Scott Paulin. Not Rick Springfield, who the producers presumably paid the most money. Which means they shelled out the cash for a “name” actor, more or less, who barely appears in the series.
That’s why I’m not surprised they dropped the whole disguise angle completely in the new FOX show. But it does make me wonder why they decided to call the new show Human Target anyway, given that they totally ditched the character’s primary gimmick, as well as anything else that might relate back to the comic book. I’m guessing the new series was already deep into development by the time they dropped the disguise aspect.
And now, Chance disguised as Palmer goes to Palmer’s house, and does a whole “honey, I’m home” routine. Palmer’s daughter jumps into his arms, and Chance finds Palmer’s wife in the kitchen, and goes right in for a kiss with no hesitation.
Chance and Palmer’s wife talk about Palmer’s son, and how he’s in his room doing his homework, and Chance draws on his vast knowledge of Palmer’s life by saying, “Maybe he’ll get those grades up!” The wife falls for this, and says that he’s being too “tough on him” once again.